Monthly Gardening Tips - April 2021

IN THE GARDEN

As the days get longer, and warmer, all plants are stimulated into growth. Generally speaking if you haven’t finished your winter pruning, shaping, dividing and planting by the end of March you have 'missed the boat.’ These horticultural tips can't cover for all eventualities but I flag up a few seasonal jobs can be done during April. Very early flowering shrubs may be pruned after flowering - Daphnes, Camellias, Winter flowering Honeysuckle - Lonicera fragrantissima- and Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince, both pictured below), Viburnum tinus, Garrya, Witch Hazel and Magnolias amongst many others. All of these will produce flowers next winter/spring on growth produced this year.

Flowering Quince
Lonicera fragrantissima

Whilst slower-growing herbaceous plants don't need support, very many of the taller ones do. As new growth appears it is much easier to provide supports early - the new shoots then grow up through. I use old leafless off-cut winter-pruned branches. Hazel, some Birch growth, and Lime trees are best as they usually have fan-shaped growth. Stick 3-5 firmly into the ground round clumps of Phlox, for example, and bend the tops over about 1m from the ground to make a ‘cage' through which the stems will grow. By June you won't even see the supports.

During dry spells keep on top of weeds by hoeing well before they set seed. Unless they are large you can just let them shrivel on the surface. Keep an eye open for Box moth caterpillars and spray Box bushes with proprietory chemicals as a deterrant. Late April is the time to apply weed, feed and mosskill to your lawns, unless you encourage wildflowers. And why not?! And don't forget to water outside hanging baskets, window boxes and pot plants as they easily dry out, despite the rain.

Sow some giant sunflower seeds now!……. Let’s see your results at the KHS Show on Kew Green on 28th. August (fingers crossed!)

VEGETABLES

Again, I can only offer a snap-shot of reminders for this month. Areas for vegetable growing should have been cultivated during March-unless you are a ’no dig’ exponent. I was able to rotovate mine in early March and got off to a good start with sowing radishes, spinach, rainbow chard and peas. The latter may need netting to deter mice, squirrels and pigeons until they are a few centimeters above ground. Then you need to deal with slugs and snails! Most other vegetable seeds should be sown this month; but don't be tempted to plant out cucurbits, tomatoes and other veg. that can’t withstand frosts until late May. I protect and harden mine off in an old cold frame partly helped by recycled windows! (See below.) See also this wonderfully coloured rhubard in mid March which was forced by merely putting a disused black bin over it for a month.

I got a bit side-tracked this spring by delving into seed sowing by the moon phases! (lunarium.co.uk?) and I might put some of it into practice. Check it out, it’ll drive you keen gardeners crazy! Tell us your experiences on Facebook.

Finally, here is a photo of my upturned Velux window ‘pond’ which I sunk into the ground last autumn and filled with water, a few water plants, some shingle, and a soil slope - you can see how many honey bees come to drink here. And, last week, a Peacock butterfly paid a visit…… part of the magic of nature. Enjoy.

cold frame
pond
rhubarb
Peacock butterfly
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